Photography credits: Reed Hutchinson PhotoGraphics
Table of Contents
Sarah Bischoff, Doctors Hate Him! A Glimpse into Early Modern Health Culture, as shown in a 1541 “correction” of Thomas Elyot’s The Castell of Helth [Clark Library Rare Book Stacks ; Chrzanowski 1550e]
Arie Nair, The Science of Astrology in 16th Century Europe: Intersection of Science, Medicine, Politics, and Astrology in Claude Dariot’s A breefe and most easie introduction to the astrological judgement of the starres (1583?) [Clark Library Rare Book Stacks ; Chrzanowski 1583d *]
Bronwen Wilson, The Compass and the Horizon: Edward Wright’s, Certaine Errors in Navigation, Detected and Corrected, London, Felix Kingston, 1610. [Clark Library Rare Book Stacks ; Chrzanowski 1610w *]
Cynthia Fang, Traveling Treatises: The dissemination of architectural forms and perspectives A copy of the Booke of Architecture (1611) by Sebastian Serlio [Clark Library Rare Book Stacks ; Chrzanowski 1611se *]
Doctors Hate Him! A Glimpse into Early Modern Health Culture, as shown in a 1541 “correction” of Thomas Elyot’s The Castell of Helth
– Sarah Bischoff, English
Thomas Elyot’s Castell of Helth is a fascinating little text, detailing diet and exercise tips for the discerning 16th-century Englishman. Elyot frames himself as that model Englishman, reminding us that he is educated, patriotic, and healthy in the text’s “Proheme” (Proem), which grants him authority in such matters. He is not a doctor. His authority comes from his own idealization of himself.
The Castell is not useful only as a vanity project, however. The book was quite popular in its day, getting a number of reprints. This popularity can tell us a lot:
- We can get a sense of how a non-medically-educated reader (and Elyot himself) might understand how bodies work. Elyot draws from Galenic/4-humors medicine, and explains quite simply in Book 1 how certain humors affect certain parts of the body.
- Books 2 and 3 give us insight into the cultural and ecological practices that make up Elyot’s perspective on diet and medicine, and how diet and medicine are not necessarily seen as distinct categories. Some of Elyot’s views show unambiguous anxieties about what is considered foreign: Elyot specifies that he wants the book to help English people “haue lesse neede of things brought out of farre Countries, by the corruption whereof, innumerable people have perished” (ii). The foods he talks about are (ostensibly) English foods, and he talks about how each kind can affect one’s humoral balance, for better or worse.
- The text also specifies particular exercises and activities that help to cultivate one’s body and mind.
The idea of health and cultivation is, as shown in The Castell’s focus on diet and medicine, partially a patriotic problem. Patricia Akhimie’s work on cultivation and English identity can help us understand this patriotic dimension a bit better. Though there is a kind of egalitarian rhetoric that can surround health and diet both then and now—where all someone needs to do is work on themselves and they will be healthy eventually—there is an implicit idea that one must already have a cultivatable enough body at the start. In Elyot’s early modern conceptualization of cultivation, then, one can work to have an ideal body, but only if one’s body is already English to begin with.
The Castell draws from a source that became immensely popular in the Middle Ages, the Secretum Secretorum. Created from apocryphal letters by Aristotle to Alexander the Great, the text advises him both how to govern and how to care for his body. This text crafts an analogous relationship between the body of a conquering ruler and the fitness of a conquering state. A similar relationship between individual and imperialistic fitness appears in this work, though Elyot doesn’t write with an individual king figure in mind, necessarily. He is writing instead for a population—all English bodies, not just the King’s, emblematize political health.
The edition held by the Clark Library, however, is “Corrected and in some places augmented.” Why? What, exactly, needed correcting? In the Proheme, Elyot claims he has supplemented and corrected the text under duress by those who “have saied in derision, that although I were pretily seen in hystories, yet being not lerned in physicke, I have put into my book diverse errours.” Doctors, it seems, accused him of not really knowing what he was talking about, and of including errors. And he almost certainly did make mistakes; Elyot did not study medicine, a field that, in the 15th and 16th centuries, was beginning to center on university education and focus more on anatomy and surgery (rather than thousand-year-old Galenic philosophies). Elyot seemed to absorb those criticisms and redo his work in light of them, but not without including some lightly conspiratorial jabs. He notes, for example, that the reprint will not be “noxouse [noxious] to honest physicions,” and that he is simply making his work legible to an audience of folk who might not know Latin and/or might not be educated in medicine. In other words, Elyot tells his readers to expect further criticisms only from doctors who do not have the best interests of readers at heart, who want medical knowledge to remain cloistered behind university walls, and who probably just want to make money off their patients – rhetoric that is perhaps all-too-familiar today.
Akhimie, Patricia. 2018. Shakespeare and the Cultivation of Difference: Race and Conduct in the Early Modern World. New York: Routledge.
A Truly ‘Greate’ Herball: An exquisite copy of the first illustrated herbal produced in English.
– Erin Severson, English
Widely regarded as “the first illustrated herbal produced in English,” The Greate Herball (London: J. Kynge, 1561) is not illustrated in the sense of containing naturalistic images intended to portray organisms or specimens. Instead, this herbal follows in the tradition of medieval and Renaissance iconography that is primarily allegorical in nature. There is a frontispiece, headpieces, tailpieces, and capitals, but only two visual images are printed in the text. Captions identify these figures as “Mandrake the Male” and “Mandrake the Female.” The reuse of the woodblock to create both an allegorical frontispiece and to refer to a specimen points to the sometimes tenuous and ambiguous relationship between image and text in this period. The physical features of plants are not depicted in the text block. Woodblocks were expensive to commission and the blocks themselves were often the property of the printer; thus, printers would economize by reusing blocks to produce the same image for various purposes.
As the only known translation from French of Le Grant Herbier (1498), The Greate Herball is the source of many English names of plants still used today. The anglicization of plant names is a topic which generated disputes among natural historians for centuries. Prior to global adherence to the example set by Karl Linnaeus in the mid-18th century (which took decades to be widely adopted), names for plants varied and the language was region specific. Much of the work of Renaissance humanists in the world of botany was to attempt to match names or even descriptions of plants with what they could observe in the wild. This meant that they intently studied the ancients (Dioscorides’ Materia medica being the most prominent example) to work toward a system of naming.
The Science of Astrology in 16th-Century Europe: Intersection of Science, Medicine, Politics, and Astrology in Claude Dariot’s A breefe and most easie introduction to the astrological judgement of the starres (1583?)
– Arie Nair, UCLA graduate student studying the intersection between Global Health, Epidemiology, and Human Rights.
Comets, importing change of times and states,
Brandish your crystal tresses in the sky.
— William Shakespeare, (Henry VI, Part 1, Act 1, Scene 1)
A breefe and most easie introduction to the astrological judgement of the stares was written in the 16th century by the French physician and astrologer Claude Dariot (1533–1594), who received his medical education at the University of Montpellier in France. Dariot wrote and published several books on both medicine and astrology. His work on horary astrology was translated into English and influenced William Lilly’s practice of horary.
The segregation of fields of study is a uniquely modern invention. In the 21st century very few academic endeavors cross the borders that demarcate modern fields of study. Much like Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the houses remain separated. However, this was not the case in 16th– and 17th-century Europe, where questions of science, medicine, politics, crop rotation, and life and death could all be answered through a thorough study of the heavens. Physician astrologers such as Dariot calculated and constructed detailed prognostications regarding everything from when it was best to conceive a child through to electional astrology. Dariot and his English counterpart Lilly made sense of the universe they inhabited by studying the clockwork of the night sky.
Modern understanding of astrology in the West is based almost entirely on an ancient body of learning first elucidated by the Babylonians, then expanded upon by the Greeks, Romans, and the discoveries of Arabic astronomers of the early Middle Ages. In contrast, the practice of astrological prognostication known and practiced in 16th- and 17th-century England by the likes of Dariot and Lilly most closely resembled the 2nd-century work of Ptolemy in his Tetrabilos.
The field of astrology was an intricate weave not only of new astronomical and scientific discoveries, but also of religious practice. New discoveries were welcomed and added to the astrological canon as they arose; the power of the canon lay in its long history and stability. This type of astrological practice in England, much like Christianity, was based on treatises translated from earlier French and Latin writings. This lineage provided continuity of knowledge that added veracity and the weight of history, and conveyed a sense of ‘established knowledge.’
In modern academic circles, astrology and astronomy (and the sciences in general) are thought of as vastly different practices. However, this was most definitely not the case in the 16th and 17th centuries. Of these fields of study, astrology was considered the realm of the serious expert scholar whereas astronomy (and science) were dabbled in by the amateur. Astronomy is the study of the movements of the heavenly bodies, whereas astrology was the study of the effects of these movements. Astronomy was the raw data and astrology the interpretation of that data. The segregation of academic disciplines we live with in the 21st century (astronomy, medicine, geography, history, etc.), is a modern invention. In the 16th century, as Keith Thomas points out in his work Religion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular Beliefs in Sixteenth and Seventeenth-Century England, astrological doctrines were part of an educated individual’s picture of the universe and its workings.
According to Thomas,
Astrology was thus less a separate discipline than an aspect of a generally accepted world picture. It was necessary for the understanding of physiology and therefore of medicine. It taught of the influence of the stars upon the plants and minerals, and therefore shaped botany and metallurgy. Psychology and ethnography also presupposed a good deal of astrological dogma. During the Renaissance, even more than in the Middle Ages, astrology pervaded all aspects of scientific thought. It was not a coterie doctrine, but an essential aspect of the intellectual framework in which men were educated. (Thomas, 336)
Prior to the 17th century, the validity and veracity of astrological predictions were very rarely if ever questioned. There was an inherent and established belief in the influence of the heavenly bodies upon everything from crops and weather to births, deaths, politics, and obviously literature.
Bibliography and Cited Works:
Dariot, Claude & Fabian Withers, A breefe and most easie introduction to the astrologicall iudgement of the starres : vvhereby euerye man maye with finall labour giue aunswere to any question demaunded / written by Claudius Dariot Phisition, and translated by Fabian Wither ; hereunto is annexed a most necessarye, ready, and breefe table, for the speedie finding out of the planetary and vnequall houres of euery daye thorow the yere, exactly calculated by the sayd Fabian Wither. (Thomas Purfoote, 1583).
Thomas, Keith, Religion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular Beliefs in Sixteenth and Seventeenth-Century England, (London: Penguin University Books) 1971.
Paper Armadas: The Copie of a Letter sent out of England to Don Bernardin Mendoza, 1588
–Rhonda Sharrah is a PhD candidate in the Department of English at UCLA. Her research focuses on the early modern British book trade, as well as translation and the transnational circulation of texts in the 16th– and 17th-centuries.
A War of Words: Though the title page asserts that this letter relating the defeat of the 1588 Spanish Armada was “found in the chamber of one Richard Leigh a seminarie priest, who was lately executed for high treason,” the pamphlet’s true genesis sheds light on a hidden battlefront during the Anglo-Spanish War and the mastermind behind it: William Cecil, the Elizabethan statesman and part-time propagandist. The volume contains the letter, written as if from an English Catholic to Don Bernardino de Mendoza, the recently expelled Spanish ambassador, followed by another appended pamphlet titled “Certaine aduertisements out of Ireland” which takes the form of reported “examinations” of captured soldiers from the wrecked Spanish fleet.
Authorship, Covert and Collaborative: William Cecil is known to be the true author of The Copie of a Letter due to the survival of a draft copy in his personal papers showing extensive corrections and additions in his own hand. As an advisor to Queen Elizabeth I during the height of tensions with Spain, he had ventured into propaganda wars before, but this time he took on the creative challenge of composing the regretful account of Spain’s defeat “in the character of a Papist in England” (as the British Library catalogue puts it), then engaged a network of collaborators to help spread it far and wide.
Whispering with Many Tongues: Cecil utilized the medium of print to quickly and covertly spread his preferred version of this ‘breaking news’ story to potential allies abroad, using the techniques of proto-periodical reporting to make the account more trustworthy: eyewitness testimony from captured enemy soldiers in the ‘Certaine Advertisements’ and the fiction of an unexpectedly intercepted missive from a Catholic source speaking with regret of the Armada’s failure to an ally in the ‘Copie of a Letter.’
To reach a wider audience, Cecil had his pamphlet translated into multiple languages and exported to neighboring countries. His collaborators in this endeavor were an eclectic group of London printers who had experience with non-English texts and false imprints. John Wolfe, who lived in Florence for a time and, back in London, had been printing Machiavelli and Aretino in Italian, produced Essempio d’una lettera… The French version was produced by the same team as the English, “I. Vautrollier” – Jacqueline, a Huguenot refugee and the widow of a printer, and their former apprentice Richard Field.
Traveling People and Traveling Texts: This volume provides insight into pathways of conflict and connection in the late 16th century, and raises many more interesting research questions:
–What channels were used to distribute the propaganda abroad, both materially and socially?
–What can this tell us about the movement of people, texts, and ideas across borders in this period?
–What was the experience of refugees from the many political/religious conflicts, and how did this affect the trades they entered (ex. the book trade), as well as other elements of English culture?
–What can we learn about the levels of multilinguality and how can this help us move our research and teaching beyond English-only texts and frameworks?
Brown, Meaghan J. “‘The hearts of all sorts of people were enflamed’:
Manipulating Readers of Spanish Armada News.” Book History 17 (2014): 94–116.
—. “The Fragmented Armada: The Transmission of an Armada News Pamphlet.”
Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada 53.1 (Spring 2015): 107–130.
Crummé, Hannah Leah. “The Impact of Lord Burghley and the Earl of Leicester’s Spanish-Speaking Secretariats.” Sederi 21 (2011): 7–27.
Lyell, James P.R. “A Commentary on Certain Aspects of the Spanish Armada: Drawn from Contemporary Sources.” Unpublished thesis, 1932. Houghton MS Eng 714. Woodfield, Denis B. Surreptitious Printing in England, 1550-1640. New York: Bibliographical Society of America, 1973.
On Amethysts: The Gouldsmythes Storehowse, Hannibal Gamon (London: manuscript, ca. 1606)
Clark Library Rare Book Stacks Chrzanowski 1606*
–Elisa Antonietta Daniele, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow, UCLA/University of Bologna
The color of amethysts
Purple hues, dark and intense with no visible color zoning, characterize the finest amethysts.
Amethysts can also have areas that more brown or prune-like; they can be red as hyacinths or even clear as crystals. You can read these observations on amethysts in the seventh chapter of The Gouldsmythes Storehowse, along with information on these gemstones’ provenance, value, and properties. Beautifully handwritten, The Gouldsmythe Storehowse is composed of nearly 100 pages. Six copies of this manuscript–which has never been published–are known; the original is held by the Goldsmith Company’s Library. The Gouldsmythe is divided in two parts. The first focuses on precious metals and “what matter or stuff money is made of.” The second part provides “knowledge of all sorts of Jems.”
The “amethysts Orientall”
By focusing in particular on the so-called “amethysts Orientall”, The Gouldsmythes also posits that amethysts are a symbol of overseas wealth. “Amethysts Orientall,” according to the authors, grow in various parts of India (Ceylon, Cambaia, and Ballagatt are the localities cited) are sold in Goa, and embedded in rings or seals. Compared to those found in “Ethyopia” and “Boemia,” these kinds of amethysts are harder to be “engraven.” For this reason and their intense purple color, the “amethysts Orientall” are the most valuable in Europe. The Gouldsmythes provides its readers with other curiosities on these gems: amethysts can ease wine drunkenness, protect against venom and poison, and they push away evil thoughts from the brain.
My research on Baroque ballets in northern Italy
My current postdoctoral research examines environments, natural resources, and commodities performed in the ballets staged at the Savoy court in Turin, northern Italy, during the lifetime of the regent Christine of Bourbon-France (1606–1663). One of these ballets, titled Il Gridelino (1653), featured amethysts – Christine of France’s favorite gemstones. We know of this ephemeral spectacle thanks to a lavish album with drawings in ink, gouache, and shell gold. The album records every aspect of the performance, from the costumes to the choreographies.
In the final scenography of this ballet, a rocky cave displayed to the audience a vein of gold in which nine amethysts glittered. Perfectly round, the gems are represented as having already been polished and shaped by human hands, rather than raw materials extracted from the bowels of the earth.
Throughout the spectacle the gemstones were celebrated for their range of hues between bright and dark, their colors, red, violet, and blue, and their opacity and iridescence.
In another scene, two dancers impersonating merchant women from Western Asia offered to the audience nine rings with engraved amethysts hung on a stick.
Both The Gouldsmythe Storehowse and the ballet, Il Gridelino, attest to contemporary fascination with the trade in amethysts and their color. Since not many early modern texts on gemstones focused on amethysts, The Gouldsmythe helps me to illuminate questions including:
–How were amethysts manufactured, assembled in jewelry, and traded?
–What specific visual qualities and material properties of amethysts–if compared to other gemstones–elicited the interest of contemporary brokers, buyers, and artists?
The Compass and the Horizon: Edward Wright’s, Certaine Errors in Navigation, Detected and Corrected, London, Felix Kingston, 1610. (Clark Library Rare Book Stacks ; Chrzanowski 1610w *)
–Bronwen Wilson, teaches art history at UCLA
Edward Wright (1561–1615) published the first edition of Certaine Errors in Navigation in 1599 (top center), having discovered his mathematical calculations had been used by the Flemish-Dutch cartographer Jodocus Hondius without acknowledgement. In his dedication to the Earl of Cumberland, Wright protests for more than a page:
and to whom the causes that most moved me thus unseasonably (as it were) to pluck the same before the time, that is, the publishing of part hereof already by one: and the stealing of an other part by a second man . . . But by good happe it was stayed, coming by the way into your Lo.hands: who presently (by comparing it with the originall copy thereof, which I had reserved to my self) knew it to be the same booke worde for worde, which I had made, and presented unto your L. almost seaven years before.
Copying cartographical information was commonplace, as Wright’s own volume demonstrates, but Hondius had gone too far.
The second edition, Certaine Errors in Navigation, Detected and Corrected, dedicated to Prince Henry, son of James I and Anne of Denmark, was published in 1610, with 19 additions. Extant copies are very rare, since Wright’s corrections and accurate mathematical tables resulted in use of the edition by sailors for decades. Although missing its “excessively rare” world map, as Paul Chrzanowski notes, a small version of the map is engraved on the title page, together with navigational instruments. Note the “Sea Rings” above the map on the left. Details on the use and making of the instrument, which combines astronomical rings with a compass, is one of the additions to the 1610 edition, together with a full-page engraving of it. The instrument corrected readings of the compass by enabling sailors to determine variations based on their location (pp. 199–206). Earlier authors, notably Pedro de Medina (Arte de navegar, 1545), denied variations, even between north and truth north, as Wright’s acerbic comments in the dedication observe. Wright also corrects tables of declination for the “Sunne and fixed starres,” as well as books of instruments, including those of Pedro Nunes and Martin Cortese. Certaine Errors also includes a translation of Rodrigo de Zamorano’s Compendio de la arte de navegar, first published in 1581.
In one of the chapters, the Spanish cosmographer describes the horizon, a term whose meanings had evolved with oceanic voyages. Early in the fifteenth century, Leon Battista Alberti used the word horizon to describe the circle that marked the limits of the city of Rome. With the development of perspective, however, the meaning of the word horizon shifted from a boundary that could be measured or fixed toward the frontier, toward what was unknown. As Chapter 14 of Certaine Errors begins (Chapter 15 in Zamarano’s original), “The Horizon is a circle which divideth that part of the heavens which we see, from the residue which we do not see” (p. 13). The definition had circulated earlier with an illustration in Robert Recorde’s Castle of Knowledge: “The Horizonte is a cyrcle whiche parteth that parte of the worlde that wee see, from that whiche wee see not…” (p. 21, 1566). Zamorano’s chapter continues, however, by describing the horizon as “an imagined circle, whose center is the point where our ship is.” This shift in the meaning of the horizon from something that could be known through measurements, to uncertainty about what lies ahead is of a piece with Wright’s efforts to correct problems encountered by sailors as they charted a course. For Zamorano and for Wright, turning a ship was akin to the rotation of a needle on a compass, an analogy that may help us understand better the use of ships and compasses on maps, such as the engraving on the top right from Marco Boschini’s album, Il Regno tutto di Candia (The Realm of Crete, Venice, 1651).
Monmonier, Mark. “The Wright Approach.” In Rhumb Lines and Map Wars, 63–78. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010
Tunturi, Janne. “Cartographer’s experience of time in the Mercator-Hondius Atlas (1606, 1613).” Approaching Religion 8, (May 2016): 46–56.
Waters, David Watkin. The Art of Navigation in England in Elizabethan and Early Stuart Times: Yale University Press, 1958.
Zamorano, Rodrigo de. Compendio de la arte de navegar. Seville, 1588.
(To see annotations by a sailor on his copy of Zamorano’s treatise, see https://archive.org/details/compendiodelarte00zamo.)
Building Patterns: Ceiling Designs in Sebastiano Serlio’s First Booke of Architecture (1611)
–Laura Hutchingame, Ph.D candidate in the Dept. of Art History at UCLA. Her research focuses on early modern Venetian architecture and craft.
My focus is Sebastiano Serlio’s Fourth Booke of Architecture published in London in 1611, which examines “Rules for Masonry, or Building,” as the title indicates. This volume covers the classical orders and corresponding ornamentation (with an emphasis on columns and arches); masonry and stone, with a section on brickwork; doors; window frames; and ceiling designs (with extensive patterns). For this research exercise, I am most concerned with the ceiling designs.
The ceiling designs are intended for “flat roofes,” as stated in the brief preface at the beginning of the chapter (fol. 67r). The premise of the section is that ceilings must be flat in order to serve as a support for ornamentation and classical forms. Wood is the first material mentioned. Serlio states that “wooden worke” is recommended in addition to the roof; however, ceilings should be painted with ornamental designs. The primary architectural unit is the coffer, inflected in a variety of ways, such as geometric ceiling programs, interlaced strap work decorated with grotesques, labyrinthine linear plans which resemble a bird’s-eye view of a garden, and polygonal forms filled with calligraphic floriated patterns. (The cruciform and octagonal coffer pattern on fol. 68v must have influenced Carlo Borromini’s design for the dome at San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane in Rome.)
Serlio introduces the first two ceiling illustrations with an emphasis on process. The first illustration shows unpainted wood (“the timber worke”), while the second shows the wood framework subsequently decorated with ornamental designs (or “ornaments and garnishing”). The order is in concert with the practice of using wood as the support for painting, that also serves as framing elements.
The remainder of the section on ceilings consists of pages with quadrants of ceiling patterns. The patterns are cropped, and the solid black border cuts vertically through the ornamental motifs and frames. This linear incision interrupts the rhythm of the forms and presents the patterns as excisions from, and as models for, larger schemas. The user of the book is encouraged to use one of the core pattern fragments and generate the ceiling surface with this matrix.
A comparison of an embroidery pattern by Matteo Pagan from 1563 and a ceiling pattern from Serlio demonstrates similar thinking about replication. In both cases, the user of the book is encouraged to take the rectilinear pattern matrix as a building block for the final pattern. Pagan’s pattern, with the square coffers filled with floral motifs and framed by strapwork, could have been modelled on one of Serlio’s ceilings. (Serlio’s Fourth Book was first published in Italian in 1537, nearly thirty years before Pagano’s Trionfo). Another comparison between Serlio’s patterns for letters and Andrea Vavassore’s calligraphic letter embroidery patterns, published in 1530, show that Serlio’s architectural designs look to an earlier tradition of illustrated pattern books.
Wolfgang Lefebvre has likened architectural illustrations to pattern books, and Femke Speelberg has noted that there are several types of prints, called ornament prints, which often deal with textile designs and architecture. My contribution to the research fair is to probe how Serlio’s ceiling patterns, like textile patterns, demand to be used in a particular way by the owner of the book. In other words, how does the paper pattern become a ceiling? What is the embodied knowledge required of the user to execute this task? How do the illustrations engage the reader of the book? What kind of knowledge do the patterns require of the reader to be used in architecture?
Serlio’s principal contribution is that he provided one of the first original, illustrated architectural treatises of the early modern period. Heretofore, illustrated architectural treatises tended to be re-issues of Vitruvius. Prior to the English publication, Serlio’s works had been translated from Italian into Dutch in 1606. The 1611 London edition represents the first architectural treatise published in English, and the copy at the Clark is part of this important architectural history.
Anderson, Christy. “Introduction: Books and Buildings.” In Inigo Jones and the Classical Tradition, 1–21. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
Lefèvre, Wolfgang. “Architecture on Paper: The Development and Function of Architectural Drawings in the Renaissance.” In Creating Place in Early Modern European Architecture, 41-70. Edited by Elizabeth M. Merrill. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2021.
Speelberg, Femke. “Fashion & Virtue: Textile Patterns and the Print Revolution, 1520–1620.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, v. 73, No. 2 (Fall 2015): 1–48.
Traveling Treatises: The dissemination of architectural forms and perspectives
A copy of the Booke of Architecture (1611) by Sebastian Serlio
–Cynthia Fang, Ph.D student at the department of Art History. Her research focuses on transcultural connections between early modern Europe and Qing dynasty China.
Architect Sebastian Serlio (1475–1554) is well known for his series of architectural treatises that were used as a manual and helped spread the “Italian Style” across regions in Europe. Book IV, Regole generali di architettura sopra le cinque maniere de gliedifici (1537), was the first to be published in Venice, and more editions followed through the early modern period. As a result, we see copies of Serlio’s treatises printed in locales such as Antwerp, Amsterdam, Lyon, London, Paris, and Toledo. Yet Serio’s treatises circulated beyond the European continent. In fact, extant catalogues and scholarship reveal that editions of Serlio’s treatises were also kept at Jesuit libraries in Asia.
In China, specifically during the Qing dynasty (1644–1911), we learn that at least two editions, both Architecturae liber septimus [the Seventh Book of Architecture] (Frankfurt, 1575) and Von de Architectur Fünff Bucher [the Fifth Book of Architecture] (Basle, 1609), were held in Beijing’s Jesuit library in the eighteenth century (Catalogue, 1945). Relevant architectural treatises also include copies of Vitruvius, Palladio, Pozzo, and Scamozzi. Yet scholars have found Serlio’s work to be of particular importance to the perspective theater building at the European Palace Complex in the Old Summer Palace, known as Yuanmingyuan. Serlio’s theatrical stage of the comic scene, the illustration in Book II of the treatise, has been the subject of such comparison.
The perspective theater was recorded in a set of twenty copperplate engravings that represented architectural views of each building in the complex, titled “Perspective Painting East of the Lake.” Writing on the European palaces of Yuanmingyuan, John Finlay observes that “what is clear from the plan is the layout of the perspective painting as a European theatrical stage.” He continues, noting that “the rest of the garden construction was built in imitation of the sets on the stage of a European theater” (Finlay, 163). Other scholars have suggested that Serlio’s satiric and tragic models were both implemented in the engraving. Note the pair of “rustic” arches that stand at the forefront of the scene.
The matter of textual translation no longer seems like a pressing issue. We know that both copies of Serlio’s treatises at Beitang were in German, and accessible to the Jesuits who were active at the Qing court. There are questions that remain:
– Why was Andrea Pozzo’s Perspective in Architecture and Painting partially translated into Chinese?
– Is there a point at which language no longer matters? i.e. when knowledge disseminates through visual forms?
– For whom were some treatises translated?
Serlio and the Jesuits
The connection between Serlio and the Jesuits is an interesting one because–from a brief overview of scholarship–some scholars seem to suggest that architectural treatises were great assets for Jesuit missions. Treatises were brought to diverse regions in the early modern world. For instance, Serlio’s treatise was found in the Americas, China, and India.
– Why was Serlio’s treatise of interest to the Jesuits?
– Was there a standardized set of treatises for one to collect in relation to Jesuit propaganda?
– Does the practical knowledge of replicating architectural forms–in regions beyond Europe–prioritize illustrated forms?
Catalogue de Ia Bibliothèque du Pé-Tang (Beijing: des Lazaristes, 1949).
Finlay, John R. “The Qianlong Emperor’s Western Vistas: Linear Perspective and Trompe l’Oeil Illusion in the European Palaces of the Yuanming Yuan.” Bulletin de l’École Française d’Extrême-Orient 94 (2007): 159–93.
Kleutghen, Kristina. “Staging Europe: Theatricality and Painting at the Chinese Imperial Court.” Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture 42 (2013): 81–102.
Zou, Hui. “The Jesuit Theater of Memory in China.” Montreal Architectural Review 2, no. March (2015): 37–53.
Treatises listed in the Catalogue of Beijing’s Jesuit library include:
Palladio, Andrea. I quattro libri dell’architettura di Andrea Palladia (Venice, 1601)
Pozzo, Andrea. Perspetiva pictorum et architectorum Andreae Putei e Scietate Jesu (Rome, 1702–23); Scamozzi Vincenzo, Dell’idea della architettura universal di Vincenzo Scamozzi architetto Veneto (Venice, 1615)
Serlio, Sebastiano. Architecturae liber septimus (Frankfurt, 1575).
Serlio, Sebastiano. Von de Architectur Fünff Bucher (Basle, 1609).
Vitruvius, De architectura libri decem, cum Commentariis Danielis Barbari (Venice, 1567); Vitruvius, Les dix livres d’architecture (Paris, 1684).
Photography credits: Reed Hutchinson PhotoGraphics